Dobbins plays key role in coronavirus quarantine efforts

  • Published
  • By Andrew Park, 94th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

DOBBINS AIR RESERVE BASE, Ga. – Dobbins has a long history of providing support to federal agencies during times of crisis. Whether it’s a natural disaster or an infectious disease, Dobbins stands ready to partner with those leading the relief efforts.

Throughout March, Dobbins served as one of four quarantine locations set up by the Department of Health and Human Services to temporarily house nearly 2,000 passengers from a cruise ship where 21 people aboard tested positive for COVID-19.  

Our priorities in dealing with COVID-19 are protecting our people, maintaining essential mission readiness and supporting the whole-of-government effort to overcome the spread of disease, said Col. Craig McPike, Dobbins ARB installation commander.

In total, 503 people traveled to Dobbins ARB to be received and cared for by DHHS.

In addition to Dobbins, passengers were also transported to three other DOD facilities: Travis Air Force Base and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California, and Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Prior to arrival, the passengers were medically screened by DHHS and Centers for Disease Control to ensure those entering quarantine were not showing symptoms of the virus.

Kicking off a planned 14-day quarantine period, the passengers arrived via a chartered plane before sunrise on Wednesday, March 11. DHHS worked quickly to set up a perimeter around base lodging where the passengers would be housed.

Dobbins personnel did not have contact with any of the quarantined members during their time here. DHHS and CDC maintained full responsibility for all aspects of the quarantine operation.

With additional planes arriving later in the week, quarantine operations stretched beyond lodging on the Dobbins side of the base and into the Clay National Guard Center on the opposite side of the runway.

DHHS reports this as being the first federal quarantine in nearly 60 years.

The federal quarantine order was rescinded on March 24, allowing the nearly 200 passengers remaining in quarantine to begin returning to their homes. Passengers who completed the full quarantine were allowed to return home via commercial means, while those with time remaining on their quarantine order were advised to self-monitor and were prohibited from traveling via commercial transportation. Instead, they could either rent a car or have a family member pick them up from the base.

Overall, the partnership between DHHS and Dobbins was a success, said Capt. Tom Bowman, DHHS Deputy Federal Health Coordinating Officer.

“We can’t overstate how much the cooperation and engagement of our federal, state and local partners helped us meet the enormous challenges involved in this mission,” said Bowman.  “Tremendous thanks to our Department of Defense host, Col. McPike, and the outstanding staff at Dobbins, as well as Maj. Gen. Carden and the Georgia National Guard.”

Although supporting federal agencies dealing with a health crisis is not part of the 94th Airlift Wing’s standard mission, Dobbins personnel remain ready to help keep the U.S. safe whether on the frontlines overseas or right here at home.